Annaie


Author's Note: This story is intended to be a variation on a song called "May Colvin" which can be found on the Sėleas album Play on Light. It is my understanding from the writing credits that the words are traditional ("a variant of Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child Ballad No. 4)") and I am therefore not infringing on any copyright by adapting the tale to narrative form. Should this not be the case, I would like to know about it and would be glad to destroy the document upon request of someone representing such a copyright.

Also, as usual with these "secret" pages (not linked to anywhere), please don't give out the URL without checking with me first... This one I think has potential to be something, and I don't want to be accused of having already published it when all I wanted to do was show it to a few friends.

View Lyrics for "May Colvin"


Konnair knew what Annaie was in the first moment that he saw her. And he knew that he had to exterminate her, for the good of the land and all mankind.

The gods had given him the gift, the sixth sense that allowed him to feel sorcery emanating from a person. He regretted that the seven he had killed already had all been beautiful women, and he regretted even more that Annaie was not only beautiful but intelligent as well. It was a shame to have to deprive the human race of her life, but he had no choice. She was a sorceress, and for that she must die.

But she was a nobleman's daughter, and so he had to bide his time and think of how to get to her. The others had been so simple; all milkmaids and farmers' daughters. Say a few sweet words to them, and they would follow you anywhere. And once you had a person alone, the execution was easy.

He waited patiently. The gods would show him a way.



"Father?" Annaie asked as the evening meal was placed on the table in front of them. Tonight the main course was some sort of bird--olevvat by the smell.

"Yes?" her father replied. A server cut a piece of the meat and set it down gently on Annaie's plate.

"Why must I spend all day shadowed by guards?"

Shemmas sighed. "We've been over this before." He bent over his food, slicing at the tender meat as though he wished could cut off the conversation as well.

"And every time you bring forth yet another variation on the old 'I said so' excuse. There is no one in the manor or on its grounds who would wish me harm. Can I not at least be allowed some privacy here?"

"You have privacy in your room. Eat your dinner; everyone will think there's something wrong with you."

She obediently cut a piece of the olevvat and chewed it. As soon as she had swallowed, though, she resumed the argument. "I want to be able to have private conversations, to run and play as the other girls do, to go for a swim in the sea if I want to without worrying about whether the guards are watching me undress."

"Eat your greens, too. They're good for you." He followed his own advice and then continued, knowing that she would if he did not.

"The manor is not so isolated that people do not visit. There are strangers here all the time. What if one of them came upon you while you were on your way to meet a friend and killed you? Or kidnapped you while you were running and playing? Or forced himself on you when he found you undressing for that swim?"

She glared at him and swallowed her greens. "Why would anyone want to do these things to me? I have never harmed anyone in my life, and I do not intend to start now."

"As for the forcing, you are a beautiful woman, and I doubt that such a man would care much about your excellent character." Annaie did have the grace to blush at that. "As for the killing and kidnapping, perhaps it is not you they wish to hurt. Perhaps they know that if anything ever happened to you, I would die a thousand times. Have you given any thought to that?"

"I think you are a paranoid, selfish old man who has no concern at all for his daughter's feelings," she said through near-tears. And with that she rose and stalked out of the room.

"Don't worry, dearest," his wife said from her place at his right hand. "She's young and only beginning to understand life. No doubt she has some sort of lover she wishes to see alone. She will see the sense of your way soon."

"When is soon? A few weeks? A few months?"

"I am afraid it could be years," she replied with a sigh.



Annaie went directly to the gardens. The flowers and the hedges, carefully cultivated where the manor sheltered them from the sea breeze, radiated peace to her, and it was there she went whenever she had exchanged words with her father. The sight of the soft green ivy, the scent of the sunset-coloured roses she favoured, the sound of songbirds in the distance--all calmed her and soothed her. Only then did she realise that the guards had not followed her.

No, but they will be waiting the moment Father feels I've had enough time to calm down. Well, I might as well make the most of it. She wandered through the precise, neat paths of the new garden until she came to the old. The old garden was still weeded and got pruning once in a while, but was left to more or less become wild again. The climbing roses and star-vines of her great-grandfather's day had now grown to cover the walls, reaching for the sky that gave them life. Here, among the disorder and array, was where she liked to come most of all. It seemed to be the most peaceful spot in the gardens, for some strange reason that she could never pin down.

"Excuse my, milady," a deep voice behind her said. She pivoted to see who had intruded on her thoughts.

He was a handsome man, tall and fair, with eyes like the sea--clear and blue-green, calm and reassuring. His rough clothing and canvas apron pronounced him a kitchen worker, a judgment upheld by the small platter he carried. It bore a portion of the meat that had been served at the meal.

"Your father sends me to ask you to eat this, please, milady."

The man gets more overprotective by the minute. Sending a servant out with food! Imagine! He would never have done this to my brother. She sighed. Too bad Jackki got himself killed in that stupid duel. If he were alive, Father would have someone else to worry about.

"Fine." She took the plate from the servant and daintily consumed the meat. It tasted different than the meat she had been served at dinner, and yet it was still the same sort of bird. Curious, she asked the servant, "What sort of spice is that? It surely wasn't there at the table."

He smiled. "A bit of pepperbark is all, milady. Did you like it? The head cook suggested to your father that you might be more inclined to eat your food if it was seasoned to your taste."

She stared into his eyes, losing herself for a moment in their depth, their warmth. When he smiled, it showed there, too. Most of the nobles smiled with their mouths but not their eyes or their hearts. "Yes. It was very nice. Please continue to season my food like that. I enjoyed it immensely."



Konnair--

Yes, I have found out your name, though you ran away so quickly last night in the garden that I could not ask it of you. And I have found that you can read! A most extraordinary thing for a cook to know. Perhaps someday you may tell me where you learned it. The head cook says that you are new to the manor. I wish to welcome you. Tomorrow I want to taste some other seasonings that might be used in my dinners. Pepperbark is good, but will become frightfully dull if I must have it all the time. Father will surely not mind if I have a little variety, even if his stomach cannot handle the mildest spice.

--Lady Annaie


 
Konnair--

Thank you ever so much for walking with me yesterday. Father says that I may walk without my guards if I have a proper companion. Perhaps we can walk again soon, if your duties permit it.

--Lady Annaie



Konnair--

What a wonderful talk we had yesterday. It is a shame it had to be cut so short. I will speak to the head cook and arrange for you to come walking with me instead of preparing the meal tomorrow. Any drudge can stir the mush for breakfast. Surely you could come with me for an early stroll on the beach.

--Annaie



Konnair--

I am sorry that I missed our meeting yesterday. As you know, I have to practice my magic daily; my teacher insisted that I work an extra hour because I was so distracted at the beginning that we accomplished nothing at all for half an hour.

The funny thing is that I was thinking of you the whole time. I seem to do that a lot lately.

--Annaie



Konnair--

I must see you again. People are beginning to talk. We have to decide how to deal with this. They think that we are romantically involved. Can you come to my room after dinner? We need to decide what to do.

--Ann



"I'm here. You're here. Let's talk." Konnair no longer bothered to call Annaie "milady" unless others were around to hear. It was silly, to call good friends by their titles.

"People are starting to say--"

"I know. Let's not dwell on what they're saying. What are we to do about it?"

"I should send you away. I should tell everyone you did something disgraceful."

"You should. Why don't you?" She didn't answer. "Why don't you send me off, Annaie? It would be the perfect solution to everything. No messy loose ends."

She looked down at the rug. "I can't." It was barely a whisper, but he heard it. At last. The timing was perfect. She would be all too open to his suggestion. "I have somehow managed to--" She broke off and began again. "That is, I care deeply for you. I do not think I could stand to send you away."

"How deeply do you care?" He gazed into her eyes, making his expression as intense as possible. "Do you care enough to brave your father's wrath?" Tentatively he put his hand on her shoulder. "Do you care enough to put up with the gossip, the slander, the ruin this will make of your reputation?"

She drew closer to him. "I do not want that either," she sighed. "But I cannot let you go."

"There is another way. I had not dared to hope, but perhaps you... care... deeply enough to risk it."

"What is it?"

"We could-- No. It's too dangerous. If your father ever finds us--"

"You wish me to go away with you."

"Yes. But I cannot ask you to. Your father--"

"My father is an overbearing fool. It could work. We could go far, far away, and he would never find us."

"We could be married." The words hung in the air for what seemed an eternity, and he began to wonder if he had rushed too much.

"Married," she repeated. "You would... marry me?"

"I will not go away with you unless you will consent to it. I do not fancy a life alone, nor a life with you there, but just out of reach--just as you have always been here."

She believed him. "If we hurry, we can get a horse from the stables and be away before anyone knows we're gone."



They had barely been riding for an hour when Konnair reined in the horse. He dismounted and then helped Annaie down. She looked around, trying to discern the reason for the sudden halt. They were standing near the edge of a cliff that overlooked the sea. There was no beach below; the water came crashing up to the foot of the cliff. Vegetation seemed to cringe away from the spot, leaving it barren and rocky, open to the salty breeze blowing in from the ocean.

"Take off your dress. And your shoes too."

Annaie frowned. "Konnair, we should be married before--"

"You misunderstand me, milady. Your gown and slippers are far too fine to be allowed to rot in the sea." His eyes had suddenly grown cold and hard, their warm depths turned to icy hell. For a moment, Annaie could not comprehend what he was trying to tell her. When she realised what he meant to do, the nervous fluttering in her stomach turned to a solid lump of dread.

"Why would you want to kill me? I thought you loved me!"

"Pretense." He intended to be cruel; the word ran through her as a soldier might run his blade through an enemy, but she could not afford to grieve now if she wanted to live. Stupid, she thought. To run off with the first man who gets close to me. Father warned me. Well, she wasn't a mage for nothing. She reached for the power to freeze Konnair where he stood--

--and it slipped through her fingers. She tried again, and again, and again; each time it was like trying to hold the wind in a basket.

Konnair smiled triumphantly. "You're trying to use your powers on me, aren't you, sorceress?" He spit the word out like a bad-tasting seed. "Try all you want. It won't work. I've been spicing your food with much worse things than pepperbark. A week ago you might have lit a candle with what control you had left, but now..." He shook his head in mock sympathy.

"Why? Why are you doing this to me?" She hoped she sounded more hysterical than she felt. An odd calm had come over her. Her mind reeled, but not from the emotional blow that he had dealt her. There must be some way to get out of this. I am not a silly featherbrain who couldn't think her way out of bed; I am rational, logical, level-headed. Reassessing the situation, she added a footnote to the thought. When I'm not under the false impression that I'm in love, that is.

"You are a vile creature. You practice black magic, you consort with the priests of a pagan religion, and you freely admit all of this."

"Of course I admit it. It's the way I am--just like you're tall and fair. And it's not black magic; I would never touch something like that."

"Magic is magic. And for practicing it you must die."

"You would kill me for being what I am?"

"I have already killed seven others. Don't think I will make an exception; I intend for you to be the eighth."

"But what good does killing do? Wouldn't you rather convert me or something?"

"You cannot be converted. As you say, it is what you are. You are born with it. It's no fault of yours; please don't take this personally. But you must die. Take off your dress and slippers."

She backed away, two small steps, and a thought came to her. Of course. Perhaps I have a bit of feather in my head after all. He's between me and the cliff. But if I just charge him, he'll be braced for it. I'll never push him over without going over myself. But if he doesn't see me coming... If I can get him to turn around, I can run away. No, he'll just come after me. But if he turns around, I can push him over...

She licked her lips nervously. "Please--couldn't you at least turn around while I undress?"

He frowned impatiently. "You'll run away."

"I swear on my life and my mother's soul I will not. It wouldn't do me any good anyhow; you'd catch me. Even if I took the horse, you'd follow me back to the manor, and you'd kill me there."

"True."

"Please. Just... Turn around, just for a minute?"

He did. She reached out and shoved him, hard, in the middle of his back. He plummeted down to the sea and entered the water with a splash. It must have been deep; he came back to the surface and began shouting and splashing around.

"Annaie! Go get someone! I can't swim!"

"No."

"Please, Annaie! I'm going to drown!"

"And wasn't I? If I saved you, you would kill me, just as you would have if I had run away! You have murdered seven already, and I don't intend to be the eighth!"

He was beginning to slip under the water again. She didn't know if he had heard her, and she didn't particularly care, but she did not want to watch him die. She mounted the horse and turned back toward her father's manor. With any luck she would make it back before any noticed her absence.


Copyright Sara Fawbush 1999.